There is no denying that the California drought is dire. NASA scientists said earlier this year that the state only has a one-year supply of water left. Yet the Lone Mountain lawn and golf courses all around the state remain as green as ever. And so that raises the question that many are asking: what is California actually doing to slow our perpetuation of the next Dust Bowl?
Just last week, California Governor Jerry Brown announced strict water regulations in an attempt to tackle the drought. The executive order, issued on April 1, sets forth regulations that hope to decrease water usage in California cities and towns by 25%. Although the order does require California farmers to report more water usage data to the state, it seems that the brunt of the water-saving burden falls upon the shoulders of California municipalities. For example, Vauhini Vara, a journalist for the New Yorker, recently commented about the municipal water restrictions evident in a San Francisco restaurant in her article “Who’s to blame for the California Drought?”: “When we went out to dinner with my husband’s visiting parents over the weekend, the waiter kept taking forever to refill our water glasses, because the state had approved regulations that restrict restaurants to offering water only if customers request it. I kvetched a little at this: Shouldn’t the state be imposing its rules on the real water abusers?” . Agriculture makes up 80% of the human use of the state’s water, while municipalities only use 20%.
The question of why Gov. Brown’s executive order glosses over the agricultural issue of water usage is a complicated one. Many say that this may be politically motivated, considering the agricultural lobby is very powerful and lucrative in California. And, unfortunately for those who wished that the regulations would crack down on agricultural water usage, time has shown that attempts to persuade politicians to make decisions that go against the promise of support and donations are fruitless.
So what can we do that will actually make a difference? The answer is a lot simpler than you might think: stop eating beef. The typical American eats three hamburgers every week, and just one pound of beef requires anywhere from 1,800 to 8,400 gallons of beef to produce. A recent article in the Huffington Post Green, “How to Take Long Showers and Still Save the World From Drought” by Adam J. Rose, went into great detail about the dilemma, evaluating many different statistics on the water usage of California livestock: “If you eat just six fewer 4-oz burgers per year it’ll save as much water as not showering. The. Whole. Year.” Simply switching to a turkey burger helps greatly, given that producing poultry uses 75% of the water that beef does. The California livestock industry uses an estimated 188 million gallons of water per day, and the production of cow feed in California that is transported as far as China uses 100 billion gallons of water per year. To put that in perspective, that’s 200,000 times the amount of water required to fill one Olympic-sized swimming pool.
And so, Californians, I challenge you to cut beef from your diet. Cows are thirsty and California does not have the water to spare. Next time you’re out for a burger, stick with the turkey burger or the veggie option and you will be making a much greater difference than you would be by taking shorter showers or leaving your lawns to dry out. τ